Every fishing season there are a number of streams and lakes I try to visit at least once because of fond memories of previous adventures. The lure of the water may be because of the picturesque surroundings, less anglers, or maybe great fishing. Bear Canyon Lake has all of these characteristics plus a bit of exercise before even wetting a line.
For a quick half-day trip it can be done, but it is often difficult to pass Willow Springs and Woods Canyon Lake and drive 9 additional miles on a dusty, gravel road. The anxiousness of wanting to get there reminds me of decades ago when we had two boys in the back seat chiming in, “Are we there yet?” Once you have fished the lake, you realize it is worth the journey.
The 60-acre lake is at 7,500 feet and requires a short hike of a quarter mile from the parking lot to the water’s edge before making the first cast. Bear Canyon Lake is stocked every two weeks throughout the late spring until Labor Day with catchable rainbow trout. If you arrive before the sun is up or stay after sunset, the surface of the lake becomes alive with a feeding frenzy of trout! It is quite a spectacle and hard to fathom the number of rainbows that inhabit this lake.
Most of the trout caught will be in the 10-12 inch category, but there is always the possibility of catching one up to 16 inches in length that may be a holdover from the previous year’s stocking program. A significant population of rainbows will make it through the winter ice and snow because of the overall depth of the lake.
The lake is nestled in Bear Canyon, which makes steep banks at the water’s edge a bit difficult for the back cast of fly fishermen. But, by walking the water’s edge a number of spots will open up, making it a fly fisherman’s delight. The north side of the lake is a bit more open and can be reached by taking a secondary dirt road on the eastern boundary, which will give you access to the dam area.
There are numerous spots for bank fishermen on the southern and western shore where Power Bait will always catch a trout or two. Casting spinners also works well by walking the shoreline and covering as much water as possible. Using this technique, it may be necessary to walk around bank anglers and showing them the courtesy of not fishing the water directly in front of them.
I prefer a kayak, which gets me offshore where I can cover all the water I want to fish. Casting is much easier whether using a fly rod or spinning outfit and fishing overall is better, reaching trout that haven’t seen bait. The only problem using a kayak is that when the day is done, it needs to get back into the pickup, which means a hike, uphill with the boat, a laborious job.
The 44-mile trip from Payson will take a bit more than an hour, but I think it is well worth it with far fewer anglers and better fishing on most days. If you like to catch trout and want a different destination, then take the trip, keep the windows up because of the dusty road and head to Bear Canyon Lake.
Take a friend fishing, enjoy the picturesque view and the wildlife in God’s creation, the Rim Country.